Romance scammer strikes again
Alberta woman loses $90k to scammer claiming to be local
By: Amy Crofts
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013 06:00 am
Be Web Wise (Match.com)
Be aware of anyone who…
• Quickly asks to talk or chat on an outside email or messaging service
• Claims to be from U.S./Canada but currently travelling, living or working abroad
• Asks you for money
• Vanishes mysteriously from the site, then reappears under a different name
• Talks about "destiny" or "fate"
• Claims to be recently widowed
• Asks for your address under the guise of sending flowers or gifts
• Makes an inordinate amount of grammar and/or spelling errors
• Sends you emails containing strange links to third-party websites
A romance scammer identifying himself as a resident of St. Albert has defrauded another victim out of thousands of dollars.
A 43-year-old woman from Southern Alberta who wished to remain anonymous, said she lost about $90,000 to a man on Match.com who promised her “love, marriage and a happy life.” That man went by the name of Mark Bachman.
“The thing that I really kick myself for (is that) right from the get-go my gut instinct was telling me something was wrong and I chose to ignore it,” she admitted. “I would like to let people especially in St. Albert know that he got somebody as well.”
After four months of correspondence over phone calls, text messages, emails and Skype, the woman wired a total of $90,000 to bank accounts in Spain, believing it would go towards their future life together.
Like the Edmonton woman who told the Gazette she lost $2,800 to the same scam in June, the Southern Alberta resident fell for Bachman’s elaborate story.
He said he was recently widowed and lived with his young son in St. Albert. He worked as a self-employed environmental chemical pollution consultant part-time out of an office in New York, but was currently pursuing a project in Spain. He said he was temporarily short of funds to hire workers from Belgium for the project and couldn’t ask anyone he knew for the money.
When they became suspicious Bachman would forward them contracts, certificates and tax receipts to bolster the legitimacy of his story.
“He seemed so genuine. There was never any hesitation in his voice when it came to his stories,” said the 43-year-old. “He had an answer for everything.”
Having an answer for everything is the scammer’s job, noted Daniel Williams with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
“You might be developing a relationship with what is actually a gang of 10 grown men pretending to be a 23-year-old woman,” he said. “There is no way you can tell who and what is on the other end of a keyboard.”
Using stolen photographs as profile pictures, organized crime groups operating out of West Africa, Russia and Southeast Asia, have their members keep in 24/7 contact with victims using masked phone numbers, emails and staged Skype calls.
This summer the centre reported that online dating has become the most popular fraud target in Canada, with victims having lost more than $16.5 million in 2012.
Victims from Alberta reported a loss of more than $1.3 million since January. The number of complaints and defrauded funds has been going up since 2008.
A 49-year-old woman from Central Alberta was almost one of them.
Sniffing out a trap
K.K., who wished to only be identified by her initials, thought Bachman was too good to be true.
A month after joining Match.com, K.K. received a message from a man named Maiden Bachman. His story (which was the same as Mark’s) was plausible she thought, but his motives were suspicious.
“I thought, ‘Oh I love European men! They’re just so full of flattery.’ As soon as you get on there they just swoop in on you,” she chuckled. “But he really threw me for a loop. If this guy makes this kind of money, then why isn’t he with one of the Housewives of Orange County?”
After confronting Bachman about several discrepancies in his profile and on his company website, he became agitated and eventually cut off contact with her.
Within the same week, K.K. was approached by two other men claiming to be “out of the country on business,” a reason why the two couldn’t meet face-to-face. Red flags went up, she said.
“If it’s too good to be true, it is. If these guys are professing their love and they’re hounding you, it is a huge warning sign.”
Williams advises people meet the person they’re corresponding with as soon as possible face-to-face. Research their name and background as well as conducting a search on yourself periodically to ensure you haven’t become a victim of identity fraud.
“It’s very rare that a person reports a fraud to us that we don’t do a search on the Internet and we find that someone else has reported almost the identical scenario,” noted Williams. “If the same thing happened to three people, then at least one of them (will) do a blog on it.